Best of our wild blogs: 18 Jan 16

Seahorse, shrimp & sponges
Hantu Blog

Sustainability Mentorship Programme 2016 – applications close 24 Jan 2016
Green Drinks Singapore

Singapore Green Landscape 2016
Green Future Solutions

Orange-spotted Grouper (Epinephelus coioides) @ Chek Jawa
Monday Morgue

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Organisations look to reduce food waste with centralised recycling system

National Environment Agency says more premises have adopted on-site food waste treatment solutions, with the agency co-funding 10 on-site food waste recycling projects so far.
Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia 18 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: With 25 F&B outlets, a supermarket and a food court, the Amara hotel and shopping centre at Tanjong Pagar generates about one and a half tonnes of food waste every day.

The food waste used to go into an incineration plant and a landfill, but it will soon be recycled when the hotel fully installs its new food digester system.

The system works by decomposition, with microbes turning the food into slurry water, a combination of liquids and solids. It is then put into a filtration system, turning it back into recyclable water, which can be pumped back into the system.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said more premises have adopted on-site food waste treatment solutions, with the agency co-funding 10 on-site food waste recycling projects so far. Four projects received approval last year, compared to just one in 2011.

"For some of the mixed developments, or some of the clients that we have, they might have food (sourced) from different places, but they actually place systems at different places,” said Michael Lee, Senior Sales Manager of food waste management company Eco-Wiz.

“But for Amara’s system, it is actually a centralised food waste collection point, so they can actually send all the food waste down from the shopping mall as well as the hotel side, to one place and all the food waste recycling is done there. Rather than having different systems at different places, then you have more things to manage."


Amara is possibly the first mixed development in Singapore to have this centralised food waste recycling system.

"Besides playing our role in creating this eco-friendly environment where we can recycle the bulky and wet food waste which over time produces a foul smell, we can also reduce the frequency of waste disposal,” said Ng Khee Siong, Amara's Vice President of Operations and Development.

“Currently, our waste is being disposed daily to the incineration plant. With this solution, we can reduce (waste) by more than 50 per cent and this can be translated to more than S$50,000 savings per annum after returns of investment."

However, having a centralised system will require cooperation from all stakeholders as some extra work is involved.

"In the past it was very simple, all waste was disposed together. But now, you have to segregate it - tissue paper, cans. It's a little troublesome, but it'll be ok when we get used to it,” said Zhao Qin Fu, a cleaner at a food court.

Director of Business Development at Ka Shuu Tou, Kaz Miyagawa, said: “This is additional work for us to segregate the wastage between food and the rest. We have to carry the food wastage to the other location, but in the long run again, we believe this is necessary and very important in a broader sense, not only thinking about our own benefits.”

Moving forward, Amara said training will be provided for their staff to familiarise them with how to segregate food waste and utilise the food recycling system. The organisation will involve its hotel, food court and supermarket, which produce the bulk of food waste, before getting other F&B outlets involved.

- CNA/yt

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Malaysia: Nadma activates working group to tackle El Nino effects

FAZLEENA AZIZ New Straits Times 18 Jan 16;

PUTRAJAYA: The National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) has activated a working group to tackle the effects of the warm and dry spell following the El Nino phenomenon that has hit the country.

Nadma director-general Datuk Zaitun Ab Samah said the group was tasked with monitoring the situation and coordinate the necessary actions immediately.

"It consists of members of the state and district level disaster management committees, which is headed by the state secretary and the district officer.

"Those at state level are required to keep abreast of the locations that face chronic water supply issues during the warm and dry season.

This will enable early preparations to mitigate the problems faced by the people," she said.

She was speaking to reporters after chairing a high-level committee meeting to tackle the issue, today.

Zaitun said the group would meet periodically to monitor, coordinate and carry out appropriate actions in the shortest time to mitigate the situation resulting from El Nino.

Working group to manage hot and dry situation
JOSEPH KAOS JR The Star 19 Jan 16;

PUTRAJAYA: With Malaysia bracing for spells of hot and dry weather due to the El Nino phenomenon, the National Disaster Manage­ment Agency has set up a dedicated working group to manage the situation.

The agency’s director-general Datuk Zaitun Ab Samad said the working group would meet periodically to monitor the hot and dry situation and coordinate immediate action.

“The hot and dry spell caused by El Nino is expected to hit us in the first quarter of the year.

“Its impact could potentially lead to low water dam levels, forest fires and haze.

“With that, our agency has activated a working group that will be dedicated to tackle this hot and dry season.

“The group will be made up of members of the state and district-level disaster management committees, which are led by the state secretaries and district officers,” said Zaitun at a press conference here after chairing a high-level committee meeting at the Prime Minister’s Department here yesterday.

She said the high-level meeting had discussed several things including banning open burning during the dry season, if required.

“We have also informed the respective state governments to identify locations that are expected to face water supply shortage early, so that it could prepare ahead of time before things become worse,” said Zaitun.

Malaysian Meteorological Department direc­­tor-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail, who was also at the press conference, said the El Nino phenomenon was predicted to hit its peak this month.

“The last time the country faced an El Nino phenomenon of this high intensity was in 1997 and 1998, where temperatures reached 40.1°C.

“The phenomenon will gradually weaken from February to June, when conditions will be back to normal.

“But the impact of El Nino, such as dry spells, forest fires and haze would be felt until April in Malaysia,” she said.

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Ecosystem-based farming comes of age

FAO urges broader adoption of its Save and Grow paradigm for sustainable agriculture
FAO 18 Jan 16;

18 January 2016, Rome - A new FAO book out today takes a close look at how the world's major cereals maize, rice and wheat - which together account for an estimated 42.5 percent of human calories and 37 percent of our protein - can be grown in ways that respect and even leverage natural ecosystems.

Drawing on case studies from around the planet, the new book illustrates how the "Save and Grow" approach to agriculture advocated by FAO is already being successfully employed to produce staple grains, pointing the way to a more sustainable future for farming and offering practical guidance on how the world can pursue its new sustainable development agenda.

"International commitments to eradicate poverty and tackle climate change require a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable and inclusive agriculture able to produce higher yields over the longer term," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

The two recent landmark global agreements, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - which require eradicating hunger and putting terrestrial ecosystems on a sound footing by 2030 - and the Paris Climate Change Agreement (COP21), only underscore the need for inclusive innovation in food systems, he adds.

While the world's cereal harvests may be at record levels today, their productive base is increasingly precarious amid signs of groundwater depletion, environmental pollution, loss of biodiversity and other woes marking the end of the Green Revolution model. Meanwhile, global food production will need to grow by 60 percent - mostly on existing arable land and in the face of climate change - to feed the future population in 2050, making it all the more urgent for the smallholders who grow the majority of the world's crops to be enabled to do so more efficiently and in ways that don't further increase humanity's ecological debt.

Save and Grow is a broad-based approach to environmentally friendly, sustainable agriculture aimed at intensifying production, protecting and enhancing agriculture's natural resource base and reducing reliance on chemical inputs by tapping into the Earth's natural ecosystem processes, and to increase farmers' gross income. As such it is an approach intrinsically crafted to contribute to the SDGs and foster resilience to climate change.

Viable Save and Grow practices range from growing shade trees that shed their leaves when adjacent maize crops most need sunlight, as tried with success in Malawi and Zambia, to scrapping tillage and leaving crop residues as soil surface mulch, a method applied on a massive scale by wheat farmers on the Kazakhstani steppe and increasingly by innovative slash-and-mulch practices adopted by farmers in the highlands of Central and South America.

The time has now come for ideas that have proven themselves in farmers' fields to be upscaled in more ambitious national programmes, FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva says in the foreword to Save and Grow in Practice in Practice: A Guide to Sustainable Cereal Production, a book he described as "a contribution to creating the world we want."

Understanding Save and Grow

Save and Grow refers to an array of techniques that share the trait of trying to capitalize on natural biological and ecosystem processes to "produce more with less".

Five complementary elements form the core of the Save and Grow paradigm: conservation agriculture, which minimizes tillage and uses mulches and crop rotation; soil health enhancement, such as growing nitrogen-fixing plants that replace costly mineral fertilizers; selection of crops with higher yield potential, greater resistance to biotic and climate stress, higher nutritional quality; efficient water management; integrated pest management, often relying on exploiting natural enemies to minimize the need for chemical pesticides.

One classic example, now widely adopted in China, is the rice-and-fish system, wherein farmers stock flooded paddy fields with fish. These can eventually be sold for income or eaten for better nutrition but while being raised also eat insects, fungi and weeds that would otherwise damage the crop, reducing the need to spend on pesticides.

A one-hectare paddy field can yield up to 750 kilograms of fish while still supporting rice yields and leading to fourfold gains in rural household income. Extra benefits include sharp drops in mosquito populations, thus reducing a serious disease vector.
FAO estimates that 90 percent of the world's rice is planted in habitats suitable for rice-fish farming, but outside of China only one percent of Asia's irrigated rice areas use the system. Indonesia's government has just launched a plant to shift one million hectares to the integrated technique.

Creating habitats

The ecosystem approach at the heart of Save and Grow is exemplified in the way some smallholders in Africa have tackled the problem of an indigenous moth whose larvae devour maize at an atrocious rate. Intercropping maize with Desmodium, a leguminous plant, in fields surrounded by Napier grass, a livestock fodder crop, catalyzes a system wherein the Desmodium produces chemicals that attract predators of maize pests while also sending a false distress signal that prods egg-laying moths to seek habitats in the Napier grass, which in turn exudes a sticky substance that traps the stem borer larvae.

On top of that Desmodium - which also fixes nitrogen in the soil - appears to encourage germination of Striga, a parasitic weed that routinely devastates African farms, while at the same time impeding the weeds' root growth. While this approach to farming entails devoting less acreage to maize than monocropping, it is far more productive, with 75 percent of farmers who adopted it around Lake Victoria reporting their net yields at least tripled. Growing more Napier grass also allows for more cows and dairy production, leading to increased supply of milk.

High tech tools

While a global shift to sustainability entails "striking a balance between the needs of both human and natural systems", advanced technology also has a role to play in enhancing the flow of ecosystem services.

Hand-held optical sensors can determine, in real time, how much nitrogen fertilizer a plant needs. Laser-assisted precision land levelling has led to productivity gains across India while reducing water applications by as much as 40 percent compared to levelling land with traditional wooden boards.

Save and Grow is a flexible approach. As ecosystems and farm needs vary, there is ample scope for innovations related to carbon sequestration, nutrition, innovative fertilizers and new crop varieties, as well as the identification of just how seeds, animals and agricultural techniques interact.

FAO also underscores that "Save and Grow" farming systems are knowledge-intensive, and need to be built on local knowledge and needs, recognizing the important role of farmers as innovators.

Policy pointers

Smallholders who embrace such a paradigm shift often find that, while benefits are clear, they are not always immediate. For this reason, Save and Grow needs strong institutional commitment for a sustained period.

To enable the transition to sustainable crop production intensification, policy makers should create incentives for farmers to diversify - by supporting markets for rotational crops - while devising tools -crop insurance, social protection schemes and credit-easing facilities -to reduce the risk they may face in making the change. Low-till agriculture, for instance, is often hampered by inadequate access to the machinery it requires.

While there is no single blueprint for the ecosystem-based Save and Grow approach, promoting its widespread adoption requires concerted action at all levels, from governments and international organizations to civil society and the private sector.

Kazakhstan's experience with conservation agriculture suggests the rewards warrant taking up the challenge on a grand scale. Initially used as a battle against wind-driven soil erosion back in the 1960s, FAO began in 2000 helping upscale the no-plough approach, which helps keep melted snow and rain water in the soil and led to 25 percent higher wheat yields and lower labor and fuel costs. In 2011, the government introduced substantial targeted subsidies to promote adoption of the practice, and today, half of the country's 19 million hectares of crop land are under full conservation agriculture.

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